Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pondering the HMR Tax Collections

Fayetteville has a Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant tax that can be used for the advertisement and promotion of the City and the construction, reconstruction, repair, maintenance, improvement, equipping, and operation of parks and other public recreation facilities. We all pay this every time we eat at a local restaurant, but we also soak visitors who stay in local hotels and motels or enjoy our finer and lesser dining establishments. At least that's the theory.

Now think of all the high dollar places you've been to dinner in the last year or so and try to guess which restaurants have the highest sales and might be paying the largest contributions to our parks and recreation fund. Would you have imagined that the Top Ten in November, the latest report would be
No. 1, Chartwell’s; #2, UA Dining Services; #3, Chick-Fil-A; #4, McDonald’s on Sixth Street; #5, Golden Corral; #6, Olive Garden, #7, Red Lobster, #8, McDonald’s on Mall Avenue, #9, Rick’s Bakery, and #10, Bordino’s? Not me. There are a bunch of places I would have guessed before that hidden Chick-Fil-A out by Barnes & Noble, the 6th Street McDonald's, or Rick's Bakery.

This tax is self-reported. It is possible that a restaurant might not report accurate sales figures and tax liability. It is a fact that some do not pay what they owe. City Prosecutor Casey Jones has 25 such scofflaws in his sights for failure to pay what is due, including Domino's Pizza, the 1936 Cafe, Gypsy, On the Rocks,
Marlo’s Taco Shack, and Seafood Market Bar and Grill.

You paid an extra 2% on your bill every time you went out to eat, ordered a pizza, or shacked up in a local motel. Do you think it was reported? Do you think it was paid to the City to support our parks? Do you care? Do you think it might be worth the City's while to audit a few businesses to make sure they are in compliance? Can you think of any nominees? Is it possible that Fayetteville's current budget crisis might not be a crisis if businesses were paying what they owe?

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